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Reviewed by:
  • Kai Piha: Nā Loko I'a
  • Kainalu Kala Kukea Steward
Kai Piha: Nā Loko I'a. Documentary film, 57 minutes, color, 2021. Directed and edited by Ann Marie Kirk. Produced by Ann Marie Kirk and the Hawai'i State Department of Education. Available at

Directed by Ann Marie Kirk, Kai Piha: Nā Loko I'a captures the innate productivity of the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) people through their care for loko i'a (traditional Hawaiian fishponds) and their intimate relationship with 'āina (land, or that which feeds). Like a stream that runs from the uplands to the sea, this film flows through scenes that connect us from the past to the present while highlighting the ebbs and flows to restore these aquaculture systems. It begins with a traditional mo'olelo (story), then discusses the historical changes that occurred, followed by an introduction to the four loko i'a on O'ahu that are featured. Kirk weaves in narrative stories shared by kūpuna (elders, ancestors), people within nonprofit and federal sectors, and the current kia'i loko (fishpond stewards) who are all collectively working toward revitalizing loko i'a practices. Kirk follows four main voices throughout the film including Kahiau Wallace, Kehaulani Lum, Chris Cramer, and Herb Lee Jr, who are respected stewards at the different loko i'a on O'ahu.

The film opens by diving into the mo'olelo of Kū'ula-kai, who is credited with building the first loko i'a in the Islands on the eastern end of Maui in Hāna. Kū'ula-kai and his wife, Hina-puku-i'a, have a son named 'Ai'ai, who eventually grows older and goes from Maui to Molokai, sharing his wisdom and skill of constructing loko i'a. From Molokai, 'Ai'ai travels to O'ahu, where he constructs the first loko i'a in Waimānalo. In response to the people's desire to show their appreciation for these loko i'a, 'Ai'ai requests that [End Page 504] for each loko i'a built, a stone be placed on the eastern end to honor his father and another stone on the opposite end to honor his mother. To this day, these stones are still found among loko i'a, carrying on their legacy and mo'olelo. Within this mo'olelo of Kū'ula-kai, Native Hawaiians are reminded to honor those who have come before us and the role we play today in perpetuating these loko i'a.

Kirk then walks us through changes that affected parts of the 'āina over time. Historical accounts tell us that nearly five hundred loko i'a were built throughout the Islands, but this common practice has unfortunately dwindled. This change is largely due to the imperialist greed of the United States and the illegal actions that flooded the Hawaiian nation following the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. Such actions diverted and polluted fresh water, led to overdevelopment and the filling in of many loko i'a, and left these areas less productive. As a result, many Kanaka Maoli families were displaced from their 'ainā and lost access to the land needed to fully sustain themselves.

Despite this history, Kirk gives us hope for the future by highlighting four different loko i'a on O'ahu and the people who have been restoring this practice and kuana'ike (worldview) that is grounded in the values of their kūpuna. These loko i'a include Huilua loko i'a in Kahana, Kalauha'iha'i loko i'a in Kuli'ou'ou, Pā'aiau loko i'a in 'Aiea, and Waikalua loko i'a in Kāne'ohe. The film walks viewers through the mo'olelo of these wahi pana (storied places) and the kuleana (responsibility) held within loko i'a stewardship.

Each loko i'a and kia'i loko in the film has a unique story particular to its 'āina and the changes that have occurred there over time, such as the transfer of landownership to the state or the designation of the areas as US Navy lands. Although these changes have occurred, the shared visions and goals of kia...